Caledonian Braves vs BRFC – League Cup Match Report

Berwick continued their perfect start to 2024 with a hard fought penalties win over Caledonian Braves in the Lowland League Cup. 

Thomas Kay saved Josh Gemmell’s penalty to send Thomas Scobbie’s men on to a trip to Cumbernauld Colts after a pulsating 90 minutes of football ended 2-2.

Scobbie opted to rest regular keeper Callum Antell and hand Kay another start in the cup while also giving starts to Blair Sneddon and Liam Buchanan. Dougie Hill was deemed fit enough to start, pushing Jamie Stevenson into midfield in Alex Harris’ continued absence while Jordan Sinclair was fit enough to make a matchday squad for the first time this season. 

Berwick had not won at Alliance Park since October 2020, losing the last three visits and it looked certain history would repeat itself within five minutes. Braves captain John Guthrie was given too much time and space and he picked out Ross McNeil at the far post unmarked and he dispatched his 14th of the season. 

Braves were setting a high tempo and looking to make it as difficult as possible for Berwick and their tactics were working. Scott Cusick shot not far over from range while Berwick continued to struggle to get the ball out. 

However, as we have seen in recent games, Berwick began to take control of the game and play some nice stuff without creating anything while Braves continued to look menacing on the break. Berwick did manage to grab a couple of half chances purely through the determination of captain Jamie McCormack – first hooking one over his head across goal before he got a 10 yard run up to send a header just wide. However, with five minutes to go, Berwick found the leveller.

Braves worked an opportunity well for Cammy Breadner whose effort was deflected wide by Hill. His corner from the right was right under the crossbar but Kay claimed it well and quickly looked long for Buchanan. The experienced striker used his body well and flicked it on for Jackson Mylchreest. The St Johnstone loanee took on his man down the left and drilled a brilliant effort past Bernie White and into the top corner to bring Berwick level. 

Despite that, Berwick had Kay to thank for keeping it level at half time. First, Robbie Stewart was allowed to roam forward about 35 yards before crossing for an unmarked McNeil, whose curled effort was well saved by Kay. Then, Breadner robbed Sneddon 25 yards from goal and hit a stinging effort across goal but Kay was again equal to it. 

The sides entered half time level but it was Berwick who should have been in front not long after the break. Grant Nelson found Mylchreest in space and while the forward seemed to try and find the return ball, his pass wound up with Buchanan who skipped past Daniel Martins and shot agonisingly wide. Every Berwick fan expected that to nestle in the bottom corner and, just a couple of minutes later, they expected another to find the net. 

Nelson’s hard running fashioned a break down the left and he managed to pull the ball across the edge of the box for Mylchreest. The striker heard the shout of an onrushing Lewis Barr who looked to sidefoot it past White but pulled it a little too much and saw it go wide. It was two fantastic opportunities and Berwick were made to pay for their wastefulness. 

A loose pass in midfield by Joe Ellison was pounced on by Guthrie who drove down the left before finding McNeil on the edge of the area. The striker laid it into the path of Cusick who saw his shot take a huge deflection off Callum Mackay and spin agonisingly past Kay and into the bottom corner. It was a real kick in the teeth for Berwick but that frustration was channelled into an immediate response. 

Straight from kick off, Sneddon went long which found Nelson who played it to Barr. McCormack, as he had done all night, went tearing down the right and was slipped in. His low cross wasn’t dealt with at the front post by Martins and was perfect for Nelson to run in and tap home from 6 yards out. 

Braves almost responded immediately with Jack Brown allowed way too much time 30 yards from goal and his effort was headed for the top corner until Kay got a good hand to turn it onto the crossbar. 

Both sides continued to push for the winner with final balls and poor touches and rushed finishes the order of the day. Kay was forced into two more saves to keep things level while Braves substitute Kian Spiers almost turned a Jordan Sinclair free kick into his own net but at the end of the 90 minutes, the two sides headed to the lottery of penalties. 

The first nine penalties were outstanding with only Kay getting his hand to Cusick’s to groans from the Berwick fans. With the Dream Team 5-4 up, Gemmell stepped up but his effort was easily saved by Kay to send Berwick into the next round and secure their first win over Braves in almost three years.

After the drama of the cup, it’s back to league action on Saturday with a trip to Forthbank to take on University of Stirling.